How can I find my role model? This is my story(2021 version)

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

As your best friend, I know you. You used to have role models to aspire from, but you grew to a competent level that the people you used to look up to no longer excites you, or that the two of you are walking down different paths.

I understand you how important role models are. Having someone to benchmark yourself against, or in plain terms, look up to, is something I am constantly seeking as well.

Who were the different role models in my life?

Let’s recount that!

My parents were never my role models. As you probably know, unfortunately my parents were never role models in my life. If anything, they really used their life to teach me what NOT to do. And I really have to thank them for that (except for the traumatization and nightmares I always have at night..)

6–12 years old: I remember in grade 2–4 I really look up to a classmate who always get praised by my teacher in my class. I was in China back then. His name is Little Jiao. I remember I really wanted to become close to him and be friends with him, oh we live really close as well. Until his grades started to fall behind…I also really look up to my cousins, Little Jun who always takes care of me, giving me games and discs to play, and teachers me ping pong (though he is amateur too).

12–16 years old: This was the period I was most lost and I felt very anxious, as I don’t have anyone to look up to in my life. My parents changed school for me multiple times, I was very unstable. I didn’t know what I want. I didn’t feel secure with my family.

16–19 years old: There is this guy called Little Gu, who is two years above me that plays badminton, is the high school captain, in IB, and going to study architecture. I just thought he was so damn cool! Because I love badminton, I am in IB and lots of my extended family practices architecture. So I wanted to become just like him! I basically replicated his path, I even got into the same university and same program as he did.

Quick recap. It is very unfortunate that I was lacking proper guidance from parents and to an extent everything was so difficult prior to high school. I felt like I lack the light or the torch in front of me to guide me the whole time, and it made me feel very anxious and lost.

Then when I got into McGill, my role model Little Gu really expanded my life and changed my life completely, and I started growing rapidly.

19–20 years old: He introduced me to join a club as an exec, and all the seniors in the club are crazily on top of their game. And because I was having meetings with them every week, I remember sitting at the table thinking, wow, I am now one of them, that means I can accomplish what they do as well!

For example, one got into Med School, one got into the best optometry school in US, one is becoming a PHD, one got a return offer as an analyst at the top IB firm, two got six figure salary offers in the states as software engineers, one got into big four, one is going to the top bank in Canada as an analyst.

Do you get what I mean? Like it was an elite club I felt like I was joining! On top of that, they have time to be in a club haha. Being in the club really boasted my confidence as a lost and ignorant child.

So during this time I realized architecture wasn’t for me, and I was looking for a way out, this person in my club called Little Ho, I was in to photography at that time, and he is like my role model at doing photography, so when he was helping me with a professional shooting, he introduced me to product design as a tech role, and that forever changed my life.

Also an end note, turns out most of the people above didn’t really figure it out, that was quite shocking to me as well.

20–23 years old: Now that I decided to transition into product design, I had to look for role models in product design. So my club helped me once again, I was introduced to this upper year who is a product designer, Little Han, and he became my first unofficial mentor and buddy to witness my career transition. Then I found my ubc best friend’s highschool badminton teammate is a crazy talented product designer (HAHA alot of digging), Little Lau became my mentor and boasted my problem solving and product thinking level by like multiple degrees. I also met a lot of damn cool student product designers that I highly respect and look up to from Cofolio office hours. I finally found a community to inspire and grow from, and I made alot of amazing design friends along the way. They helped me pass my darkest times and I made it to silicon valley as a product designer.

Quick recap. I realize a trend of how I look for role models is that:

  1. I have to think they are damn cool and wow I want to become just like him.
  2. I also have to think, this is something I can do, or I am interested in doing as well.

Not to be mean but finding someone that rings with you is pretty hard in your life, someone that thinks like you but also is above you.

24 years old — ongoing: I made it into the tech scene. What next? I’m lost once again. During this time, I ran into Little Zhang. He is a damn cool content creator/ product manager, and he is an underdog, which I consider myself to be one as well. He is good at public speaking, lots of sick videos, lots of cool journey around the world, very well documented, and has an amazing online prescence. He inspired me to start my online presence.

I don’t want to say I am not a grounded person, but I believe life has shortcuts, or two things can grow simultaneously. Some that takes 10 years, if everything aligns perfectly, it might only take 5 years. I’ve always tried to be strategic in the things I do. This is proven by 3 things in my past 5 years of life experience.

  1. I took IB diploma because the bars for english is lower than that of regular program and I have a definite chance of getting into top universities in Canada. I saved 1–2 years in my life if I had to go into a less renown school.
  2. While in my first year at UBC, I was finishing classes normally while preparing a portfolio through a portfolio class, to transition into McGill architecture, that happened smoothly. Also the transfer did not affect my progress in university, it was a very sweet and smooth transition. I saved 1–2 year of my life if I had to redo my first year and prepare for a portfolio.
  3. Even though I finished my architecture degree, but only through 3 ux internships that I got to transition into becoming a product designer in silicon valley making 6 figures. To an extent, I saved 2–3 years of my life, lots of money, and a master degree, if I transition from getting another degree.

Therefore, I really believe even as I enter the industry and my career, there is definitely a way to take shortcuts, or to hack my career to accelerate faster.

Recently I found this other guy, called Little Yang, he is a salient example. He went from a associate product manager to Chief Growth Officer in 4 years. This is super inspiring, and I’m sure if I have the right amount of knowledge, and get the right amount of experience, and be at the right place, have the right visibility, I can do the same thing.

Right now I have to do the right thing fast to quickly find my next set of role models.

That’s a wrap of me for my first 24 years of my life looking for a role model really quickly.

I’m the 24-year-old of you from 2021, how have you been? Since 2021, I decided to start writing rawly on medium to track my problems, challenges, and how I overcome them, right when it’s fresh, so you can look back can see how you really made decisions to change your actions, and hope this can help you for your future.

This is the 4th letter that I am sending you.

Mar 03, 2021

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Product Designer | Content Creator | Currently seeking my unfair advantage | This is my sanctuary to let my thoughts flow

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Zunshi Wang

Zunshi Wang

Product Designer | Content Creator | Currently seeking my unfair advantage | This is my sanctuary to let my thoughts flow

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